Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Laptop power adapters for international travel: a series of recommendations

MacInTouch has a series of recommendations on laptop power adapters and international travel that are well worth tucking away. They apply to many devices, not just Macs.
14:00 EST Edward Liu asked for advice about laptop power adapters for use in mainland China, and we got lots of tips:

[Paul Swift] In response to Edward Liu's question about bringing his iBook to use in mainland Chinese hotels, I'm a PowerBook user in mainland China and also know an iBook user here. I originally had bought Apple's international plug adapter kit (I can't remember exactly what it's called), but found that most of the sockets in mainland China work just fine with the American plug. There are pretty much two kinds of sockets here: one that is three-pronged (not like three-pronged American sockets) and one that is two pronged that works with American style plugs as long as they can handle the voltage.
I just plug directly into the socket like I would in America - the power cord that your laptop comes with handles a wide range of voltage. My digital camera power cord works just fine too as it handles wide ranges of voltages. Also my iPod, now that I think of it. The iBook user I know originally also plugged in directly to the socket but didn't feel comfortable after a while and bought a voltage converter for like $15 here.
I don't know about the airline adapter, but I think you'd probably be safe without an international plug adapter - though don't come looking to strangle me if something bad happens! I've been doing it for two years without trouble. This way you could maybe just buy the airline adapter and call it quits. Or, if your Chinese is decent, you could buy a cheap converter here and leave it when you return home thus not having to pack it.

[Ben Bidstrup] Mainland China have several sorts of plugs. They include English ( 3 pin with square pins) Australian (3 pins with flat bladed pins N and A at an angle) and US 2 pin (flat blades parallel). So you have a variety of choices.
As for airlines, Kensington used to do a great power supply which would, work with all airline plugs (cigarette lighter, EM and 110vAC) but that is no longer available. I would look at the Teleadapt which will plug in to seat power sockets and then plug your Mac power supply into it. Note that some airlines (DragonAir for example) have 110VAC at the seats. (Check with any airline as to which seats are powered). Lind also do an adapter. Kensington do a little gadget that will keep the computer running but not charge it (12V DC). Get an Apple Travel plug kit which will give you just about every option for plugs.

[Ken Tidwell]

1. Airplane: Buy at least one extra battery and learn how to best configure your iBook towards power conservation in concert w/your usage habits, and how to maximize the use of multiple batteries. Get into the habit of charging both as a priority, so that the batteries are topped off before you move from one location to another. I sleep my iBook, rather than powering it up/down. I believe this uses less power overall, and if airport security wants to see it work, all I have to do is lift the lid.

2. Hotel: The iBook charger, similar to most Apple products, is auto-ranging (100~240 V)... you simply need the correct adapter, as you seem to indicate. Many hotels will gladly loan you an extension cord if you need one. I don't recommend spending money on one in China you expect to keep after the trip, as the quality is so low as to routinely create hazards. Check that the power outlet you use remains on when you leave the room... notice that many hotels use a key-card that you drop into a slot when you enter the room, and take with you when you leave... this helps to cut the power to devices in the room, and if your adapter is one of them, you will be dissapointed when you come back after dinner and find that nothing has received a charge. Buy extra rechargeable batteries for cameras or whatever, stateside only.

Apple sells a 6-piece 'World Travel Adapter Kit M8794G/A', that I have found to be very handy, as they snap-fit onto the iBook, iPod, etc. chargers. While the smaller two-pronged (folding twin flat-blade) adapter used in the USA will work in many instances, you may need at least two other different adapters and in this case, the Apple adapter kit includes both. Easy to carry.
If you go for other options, know that the current practice in the US, where one blade is tipped wider than the other, will get you into trouble in China. The outlets that do cater to a pair of small thin blades will not usually accept the offset style. Don't bother bringing along anything that uses such a configuration.

[David Babsky] I use a Kensington "Universal 70w AC/DC Power Adapter" - the white one intended for Macs; there's also an all black one meant for PCs. It comes with an airline plug and one or two mains plugs (mine had German and UK mains plugs). Just get one of those "travel adapter" devices sold at airports, so that it can be plugged into any mains socket around the world.
Don't worry about voltage differences: the Kensington adapter works on just about all voltages - 120v, 240v (..as do the ordinary Apple-supplied PowerBook chargers..) and it worls on 12-16v for cars and planes.
Besides a pair of PowerBook connections, both 3.5mm (for the old G3 PowerBooks) and 2.5mm (for current PowerBooks and iBooks) it also comes with a slimline "docking connector" for charging iPods too!
It's sold by online Apple-oriented stores, and Kensington's website offers links to some stores. It costs around 95 Euros in Europe, so that's probably around $95. I have no connection with Kensington; I'm just a satisfied user.

[Bruce Shanker] He should check out the power supplies from iGo Their Juice and various everywhere products include power adapters for airlines and they sell separate connectors from the powerpack to different plug configurations. The Juice 90 and many other supplies come with the plug for the powerbook (S15 or 15 depending on which item is purchased). I have both the Juice 90 and the Everywhere 130. Each has airline adapters. The juice came with the plug for the Powerbook. The Everywhere 130 did not. I also saw adapters that allow foreign connections. The power supplies automatically adjust voltage, etc. They even have adapters that also allow you to charge your cell phone, PDA and other devices.

[Brian Bard]
[See the] MadsonLine Auto Airport Adapter
The Apple white power block is dual voltage; you can use the World Travel Adapter Kit from Apple [or $39.99 at Amazon.

[William Staman] On thing missing from this discussion is a surge protector. I bought a 2-Wire In-Line Laptop Surge Protector which can be force fit between the Apple plug and transformer of an iBook. It's small and is a simple series connection. Radio Shack has it for ~$10.00. [Catalog #: 61-2441]

1 comment:

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